Recycle Your Ideas is a two-year-old project by Chicago artist Miguel Cortez that explores the concept of recycling — a hot topic these days, in case you haven’t noticed — through various media. Portions of the project are on display at the Krannert Art Museum in Champaign until July 27 as part of the show “Landscapes of Experience and Imagination: Explorations by Midwest Latina/o Artists.” Cortez recently answered a few questions about his project for us.

Tell us about the Recycle-Your-Idea project.

It’s a project that pokes fun at the art making process: how artists come up with an idea for, let’s say, a painting, and how that idea then manifests into a finished piece. The artist repeats the same idea, and the same painting style, over and over, until the art no longer has the substance that it had at the beginning. It now becomes a decorative pattern/product.

Is the project just you, or others?

This is an individual project, but on the blog/site people can request stickers to then post in their city, document them and then they can send me a digital image.

What was the inspiration?

I wanted to create a series or artworks that would not be limited to just one media. I think of it more like a tree branch. It started out with stickers. Once I placed several at various sites, I documented them. I then traced the photos on the computer and the finished drawings became computer prints; these are being shown at the Krannert Museum. After this, I created a Flash animation piece for online viewing, plus others, and so forth. Each piece influences the next one, and they are independent but still connected. So the series keeps growing.

What examples of idea-recycling come to mind when you describe your project?

You can probably compare it to the idea of re-use and recycling of actual materials like paper, plastic, glass, etc., but on a conceptual level. I mean, all art’s recycled in some way, so how to differentiate between art that would fit with your project, and art in general?

Yeah, most art concepts nowadays are recycled from the past or taken from individual experiences. The end result may be innovative, such as in cases where artists use new technology. Some have started to utilize new media to create fresh new work, such as creating art for cell phones, online projects, computer programs, mp3s, video for ipods, 3D environments for Second Life, etc.

How do you choose the locations for your stickers?

It’s random. Wherever I go and if I have one I place one.

Describe the pieces on display at the Krannert.

They’re two computer drawings taken from previous documentations. Originally, the museum wanted to show and distribute the stickers, but it turned out, some university people complained and felt the university students would paste stickers all over the campus, so instead the museum made business cards.

What is the ultimate project goal?

It will keep on growing until I become sick of it.

Lauri Apple

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